“The Game – The football season starts today” by C. J. Dennis

by C. J. Dennis

(please note that this is the original prose-poem format of CJD’s)


It’s many and many a long year now since first a fellow killed a cow and robbed the creature of its hide. Then, when he’d scraped the hairy side, he tanned it in a noisome pit and made a little bag from it.

But, finding it would not hold air he wandered to a forest where there grew strange trees, and found that some contained a queer resilient gum. So, being quite a clever chap, he lined his leather bag with sap: then took a long deep breath and blew. Red in the face he puffed anew until the bag was blown up tight: a thing elusive, hard yet light, that to the slightest blow would yield. And then he flung it in a field.

A score of tribesmen gathered there beheld the object, light as air that bounced along, and, as it came: “A game!” they shouted. “Here’s a game!”

One seized the thing and rushed away. (Man had discovered how to play.) He ran, he stumbled, almost fell, and after him there rushed, pell-mell (each seeking madly to secure and hold this strange elusive lure) the whole excited, yelling tribe.

‘Tis hardly fitting to describe the scene that followed after that – the scene where men cursed, struggled, spat, bit, gouged, kicked, mauled and madly tore from other men the skins they wore. The scene of maimed men lying round in twos and threes upon the ground, the sight of spent men out of breath, of battle riot, sudden death.

But all agreed, when it was o’er, they’d never had such fun before, and all agreed it closed too soon – a very pleasant afternoon.

And yet if you go down today, and hear the yells and watch the play, you’ll find the prehistoric game and modern football much the same. You’ll notice your subconscious rise, responding to the savage cries, until the primal man once more, uprising as he did of yore, impels  you to stand up and hoot, “Yah! Tear ’em down! Put in the boot!”

And, though you blush for what you’ve done, you can’t deny it’s lots of fun.

About Stephen Whiteside

Stephen Whiteside is primarily a writer of rhyming verse. He has been writing for over thirty years, and writes for both adults and children. Many of his poems have been published in magazines and anthologies, both in Australia and overseas, or won awards. His collection of rhyming verse for children, "'The Billy That Died With Its Boots On' and Other Australian Verse", was published by Walker Books in May 2014. Stephen performs regularly at folk festivals around the country - mostly in Victoria. He is also a great fan of the Australian poet C. J. Dennis. He is a foundation member of the C. J. Dennis Society, and is closely involved in the organisation of the annual Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival. Stephen is a long-suffering Melbourne supporter.


  1. bob speechley says

    Great contribution Stephen – do you know when it was written?

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Great to read Stephen . My favourite childhood poem was ‘HIst’ by C.J Dennis. We used to act it out and scare ourselves silly at the same time.

  3. Thanks Bob and Pamela.

    Dennis wrote this piece for the Melbourne Herald. I have been unable to date it so far, but he wrote for the Herald from 1922 – 38. Definitely pre-WW2.

    Yes, Barbara, I love ‘Hist’ too.

  4. Tom Martin says

    Great piece, thanks for reviving it Stephen. I’d love to read more bush ballads and Australiana featuring the great game. I seem to remember that CJ played on the wing for a season with the Trafalgar Triantiwontigongolopes, can that be right?

  5. daniel flesch says

    Stephen surely remembers The Sentimental Bloke shouting “Put in the boot !” watching the fight scene when he took Doreen to see Romeo and Juliet . “Hush,” said Doreen , “Shame ” said some silly coot.

  6. Yes indeed, Daniel. Who could forget it?

    Could have been, Tom. Or was it the Avenel Ant Explorers?

  7. Luke Smith says

    Thanks Stephen, I didn’t know CJ Dennis had produced this. And it does seem probable that he’s referring to the Australian game and not one of the British codes. There’s a potential article waiting to be written on these unexpected references from famous writers. eg Billy Bragg’s “Yarra Song”
    When The Saints take on The Magpies
    Some day too far away
    I barrack for St. Kilda
    In that funny game they play

  8. I discovered today that this was written and published in 1930.

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